Home > The Ready for Work programme

Keane, Martin (2006) The Ready for Work programme. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 20, Winter 2006, p. 14.

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On 24 November 2006 the Minister for Labour Affairs, Tony Killeen TD, launched the Business in the Community Ireland Ready for Work (RFW) programme review 2002–2006.1 The overall aim of this programme is to enable homeless people to break the cycle of no home – no job – no home. The RFW programme provides work experience opportunities to unemployed homeless adults. It involves two days’ pre-employment training, two weeks’ unpaid work experience with in-house support, and follow-up support from training and employment officers and job coaches. Programmes are run three times a year and serve as a first step for candidates who have been through the homeless services, and in some cases the addiction and related support services, and are re-entering the world of work.

The review includes a number of candidates’ stories highlighting the personal and social progress made in the course of their involvement with the RFW programme. Some describe the positive impact of treatment for alcohol and drug misuse in assisting the candidates to move beyond their experience of homelessness towards engagement with the programme.

The review also includes information on outcomes of the 12 programmes run in the years 2002 to 2006. It reports that 118 candidates commenced the programme, of whom 53 have commenced work; 44 have accessed further training and education; and 19 are now living independently.

The RFW programme is innovative in a number of ways.

1.              There is a strong partnership approach between the candidates, the business sector and homeless service providers such as the homeless agency. Some 20 corporate supporters offer funding, facilitators, job coaches or work experience placements. A minimum of 20 homeless service providers are engaged with and support RFW.


2.              The programme has input from a steering group of members of the business community. The remit of the steering group is to increase awareness of the RFW programme among employers, to increase the pool of companies involved, to  communicate issues faced by candidates to prospective RFW companies, and to ensure productive two-week placements by matching skills to jobs.


3.              The programme offers job coaching by matching a volunteer from the business sector to a candidate who has completed a programme, in a six-month coaching relationship.

A study by Lawless2 highlighted the lack of progression routes to work placement for participants in drug treatment and engaged in vocational training in Dublin North East. The National Economic and Social Forum3 recently highlighted the issue of labour market vulnerability among marginalised groups and called for a targeted response to the issue. Platt4 and Kemp et al.5 highlighted the benefits of supported work interventions for groups such as clients in drug treatment and ex-prisoners with addiction issues. For example, knowing that work experience was a feasible option was a key motivating factor in completing training. Also, the high levels of support given to participants were a major factor in enabling the completion of programmes; this was a feature of the RFW programme.

The business sector also benefits from involvement in the RFW programme.  According to the co-ordinator of the programme, Rosemary Carvill, the greatest learning for many of those in the corporate sector has been the realisation that people ‘out of home and out of work’ are not so different from themselves. They also discover how little it takes to help someone to regain control of their life.

The RFW programme is an example that can be taken and developed by drug treatment agencies in partnership with employers in targeting the vocational and employment needs of individuals who are seeking to move beyond the drug treatment system. The merits of this programme have been extolled in a recent editorial in the Irish Times (30 October 2006):

The Ready for Work scheme, designed to provide jobs for the homeless, is a particularly useful exercise in that it reaches out to the dispossessed and allows them a chance to start afresh. Homeless people are at a particular disadvantage when they look for work because they have to use a hostel or temporary accommodation as their address. As a result, they are invariably not called for interview. In order to circumvent that problem, a range of major companies have been encouraged to commit, in advance, to the employment of homeless persons.


1. Business in the Community Ireland (2006) Ready for Work review 2002–2006. Dublin: Business in the Community Ireland.

2. Lawless K (2006) Listening and learning: evaluation of Special Community Employment programmes in Dublin North East. Dublin: Dublin North East Drugs Task Force.

3. National Economic and Social Forum (2006) Creating a more inclusive labour market.  Report 33. Dublin:National Economic and Social Development Office.

4. Platt JJ (1995) Vocational rehabilitation of drug abusers. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3): 416–433.

5. Kemp K, Savitz B, Thompson W and Zanis DA (2004) Developing employment services for criminal justice clients enrolled in drug user treatment programmes. Substance Use and Misuse, 39(13,14): 2491–2511.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction, Rehabilitation/Recovery
Issue Title
Issue 20, Winter 2006
October 2006
Page Range
p. 14
Health Research Board
Issue 20, Winter 2006

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